Come discover the Town of Stephenville – the natural environment needed to turn a career into an educational adventure!
People and Culture
The Town of Stephenville, located on the north shore of St. George’s Bay in southwestern Newfoundland, is 48 degrees north latitude and 58 degrees west longitude. This area was once known as the Acadian Village. From 1848 until 1870, Stephenville was called Indian Head. The name Stephenville was first introduced in 1874. The Acadian Village was a settlement which stretched along the coast from Kippens in the far west to Seal Cove in the far east. This covered a total distance of seven miles.
The Acadian Village consisted of a majority of Roman Catholics who fished and farmed to earn a living. The village was established because of poverty and strife existing in Nova Scotia and the excellent fishing grounds and farm land that western Newfoundland had to offer. Not many details are known about this era.
The Acadian Village was founded in 1844 by two English families. William Hunt and James Penney settled near the Blanche River. They were from Margaree, Cape Breton.
A year later, Felix Gallant and his family arrived. They lived in a hut that had been left by visiting French fishermen. In the same year, on September 3, they had a son and named him Stephen. The following year, they revisited Margaree to have their child baptized. While there, they told their friends about this new “Paradise” where there was exceptionally good arm land and pleasant weather. He persuaded some of his friends to return to Newfoundland with him. Things were hard during the early years of the Town. People did not have enough food or supplies to support themselves. The winter of 1986-1847 was one of the worse that they had experienced. The Gallants and other settlers faced many hardships.
There is still some controversy over how Stephenville got its name. Some believe that Stephen Gallant was the first person born in the area and the town was named after him. However, some believe that Stephen LeBlanc was the first born and that it is after him the town is named.
Since its beginning in May of 1844, Stephenville has grown. The first census report in 1844 cited 103 inhabitants in the area. Today there are over 8,000. Stephenville has grown into an efficient and vibrant community. Today it is the second largest community on Newfoundland’s west coast. It provides an exceptional quality of life and has a high level of industrial activity.
Stephenville’s past American influence is still very evident in the town. There still remain underground ammunition depots, large airstrips, aircraft hangars and the streets names after American states. Few reminders exist of our past prior to the Americans.
In 1941 the United States obtained rights to construct an air force base in the St. George’s Bay area of Newfoundland. The U.S. 76th Congress approved the 99 year lease and in April, 1941, construction began.
The air force base was originally referred to as Stephenville Air Base; however, it was renamed Ernest Harmon Air Force Base in June 23, 1948, in honour of Captain Ernest Emery Harmon. Harmon was a U.S. Army Corps ace who was killed in an air crash in 1933.
On September 1, 1943, the Newfoundland Base Command transferred control of the Harmon Field to the North Atlantic Wing, Air Transport Command. The base became a part of the Northeast Air Command in October, 1950. Then in April of 1957, the Strategic Air Command assumed control.
The mandate of the base was to maintain a tanker alert force and its capability to meet and refuel Strategic Air Command jet bombers on route to targets. The KC-97 was employed in this task. The base was also used as a refuelling stop for transatlantic military flights. In addition, Harmon supported three Air Defence Command units.
In 1957, the Canadian Department of Transportation constructed an air terminal building to accommodate Trans Canada Airlines. 1966 saw the closure of the U.S. Air Force Base in Stephenville. The airport is now owned and operated by a local airport authority.
Stephenville Airport was officially designated as an alternate in the Trans Oceanic Plane Stop (TOPS) program on July 23, 1970. On April 1, 1990, the airport was further designated for alternate use, fuelling only, by international scheduled air transport and for international general aviation regular use.
In recent years, Stephenville has become a favourite technical stop for international flights on route to Europe.
The Town of Stephenville was built on the shores of Bay St. George, with the Table Mountains to the northwest and the Indian Head Range to the east and northeast. The Lewis Hills, the highest elevation on Newfoundland Island at 2672′ above sea level, lie at the coastline of Port au Port Bay about 20 kilometres north.
How to get here
Stephenville is only hours away from eastern North American cities by air. The largest runway in Newfoundland, in excess of 10,000 feet, Stephenville Airport is ideally located and equipped to service both domestic and international flights.
By way of Route 460 or 490, Stephenville is 166 kilometres from the Marine Atlantic ferry terminal in Channel-Port aux Basques. A regular trans-island bus service, DRL Coach Lines, makes regular daily stops in Stephenville.